Thursday, March 25, 2021

Really NICE weekend weather - perfect for hiking, biking, skiing ... Golf? Whitewater?

Fresh *pow* at Brundage this week with no crowds ... Don't pack away the skis/boards yet! 
(Courtesy Brundage Mountain Resort) 

Hi all, 

Pick your favorite outdoor pursuit, it looks like a fabulous weekend coming our way in the last weekend of March! For some, it'll be the capper of spring break week for families and kids.

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending a number of activities where you can't go wrong! 

Spring Skiing is hitting Prime Time this weekend!

We snapped back into winter-mode this week, starting on Monday with 5-6" of fresh snow, and then again Thursday night/Friday, with another 3-6" of new snow at Bogus BasinBrundage Mountain and Tamarack Resort. Sun Valley also got a couple of inches this week. 

So we have fresh powder on the slopes, and now we're heading into a 3-day weekend of full-on bluebird spring skiing! High temperatures will be in the 40s at Tam, Brundage and Sun Valley, and Bogus will be pushing 57 degrees on Sunday! Break out the Hawaiian shirts, spring snow attire, you create it! 

Gonna be warm on Sunday in the mountains! (Courtesy Mammoth Mountain) 

Seriously, now is the time to hit the slopes before the ski areas close. Bogus, Brundage and Tamarack all plan to close on April 11. Sun Valley will close Dollar Mountain after this weekend, and Bald Mountain closes on April 18. 

Backcountry skiing also should be fab Friday-Sunday in full sunshine. If you're skinning up the mountain, be sure to bring your skin wax to keep the skins from picking up giant globs of snow. 

Grooming of xc ski trails continues in McCall and Sun Valley. I checked with IDPR, and grooming of the xc ski trails at the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas has ceased for the last 2 weeks. They may groom one more time next week before calling it good for the season. Nevertheless, the xc ski trails and snowshoe trails are pounded in from months of use, so it's still a great destination to go play in the mountains. 

Early Spring Hiking and Biking 

For Boise Foothills trails, Ridge to Rivers issued the following on Thursday: 

"Trails in the Foothills are saturated and need some time to dry out. Please find other alternatives today.


See the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page for the latest conditions and information. 

Trails will gradually dry out on Friday and this weekend. 

Snake River trail accessible from Celebration Park ... it's quite sandy and scenic!  

Some recommendations for the weekend (click on links for more info.): 

Bruneau Canyon 

And if you haven't noticed ... the snow is beginning to melt and the rivers are rising. There will be people heading out on the Payette River to go kayaking and rafting this weekend (flow level is over 2,500 at Horseshoe Bend), and there will be kayakers and surfers on the waves in the Boise Whitewater Park. It's that time of year! 

So many choices! How about tennis and golf! Gardening? Nah!  

- SS 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Steep hike to Cervidae Peak close to snow-free; first Grand Slam peak to melt out

Got the first Grand Slam peak notched for 2021!

Hi all, 

Over the last few weeks, with cool, dry and breezy spring weather, the trails are beginning to dry out, especially in the lower Boise foothills and Owyhee front country. I blogged about Ridge to Rivers green-lighting some lower Boise foothills trails last week. 

This week, I thought I'd check on the snow level on Cervidae Peak, typically the first of the Boise Grand Slam peaks to melt out. The summit of Cervidae is 5,009 feet, and today, the peak was mostly snow-free, with patches of snow on top. The trail itself was dry as a bone, with a few long patches of snow covering the trail on the ridgelines within a mile of the top.

Airplane ridge with great views in all directions.

It's always an ass-kicker of a hike since it goes straight up a ridgeline for 2,000 vertical feet over 2.2 miles. Over 500 feet of climbing per mile = STEEP! But that also means it'll provide a great workout, and get your hiking legs warmed up for the season. No pain, no gain!

How to get there: The trailhead is on a road-side dirt pull-out (right-side) past Spring Shores Marina on the road to Lucky Peak and Arrowrock. A two-track road opposite of the parking area is your trail. The hike today took me a little over an hour to the top, and slightly longer on the way down. Maybe my time was a little slower because I was stopping to marvel at the beauty and take pics. 

Lucky Peak was absolutely still and smooth as a glass pane lake-wide today. The deep blue-green color of the water contrasts with blah-looking brown landscape that has yet to green-up.  

Lucky Peak on a calm spring day ... L.P. Nursery is off to the right on the flat.

Viewing the other Grand Slam peaks from the top of Cervidae, it appears the other three are snow-bound for now. Kepros will open up next, then Shaw Mountain, then Heinen. That's the order I would recommend for knocking out those hikes this spring. All of them are delightful through May, until it starts to get hot. Wildflowers on Kepros last year were PHENOMENAL! Let's hope we see that again! 

Arrowleaf Balsomroot going off on Kepros last May. With Quinn Stuebner. 

For background on the Boise Grand Slam peaks, you can check on out my previous blogs on the other individual Grand Slam peaks - Kepros, Heinen and Shaw Mountain/Lucky Peak. You can climb Lucky Peak via the BLM road accessed from Highland Valley Road, via Rocky Canyon Road or Homestead Trail above Harris Ranch. 

The Grand Slam peaks also are featured in my Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home.  

Tom Lopez, a retired attorney who lives in Boise, was the person who pioneered the Boise Grand Slam peaks as a way to tune-up the legs for a summer of hiking in the Sawtooths and other mountain ranches that are snow-bound right now. Tom's book, Idaho: A Climbing Guide, is the best source of information for climbing Idaho mountain summits statewide. I highly recommend it. 

Mt. Heinen is the hulk of a mountain off in the distance. Still quite a bit of snow. 

The weather in SW Idaho is supposed to be crummy on Friday, but it looks good on Saturday and Sunday with mostly clear skies and high temperatures in the mid-50s. Perfect weather for spring hiking! 

Be sure to keep an eye on the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page for updates on trail conditions. 

Also, if you take your dog to Cervidae, be sure to carry a leash in case there are any mule deer or elk in the area. The trail lies inside the Boise River Wildlife Management Area. Thank you.
- SS

Thursday, March 11, 2021

R2R gives Green Light to select lower foothills trails! Spring skiing is perfect right now!

Nice late-afternoon light on Three Bears Trail above Rocky Canyon Road   

Hi all, 

On March bluebird days like these, it's a tough call for me ... should I go hiking, biking or skiing! 

Today, on Thursday, March 11, I read on the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page that they were green-lighting sandy trails in the lowest part of the Boise Foothills like the whole Military Reserve complex of trails, leading up to Central Ridge, Shane's Loop and Bucktail.  

Since that's one of my favorite go-to mountain bike loops with my pointer Huck, we knocked out that 6-mile ride this afternoon. And it was not only dry, but bone dry! There were a few dog puddles on Bucktail on the way down but that trail was mostly dry all the way. Yee-haw! 

I've been avoiding the foothills all winter -- skiing my tail off, hiking and riding my road bike. So it's always a thrill for me to get back on my mountain bike and ride in the Boise footies! Plus, in the brisk wind on top of the ridge, 55 degrees, it's perfect conditions for Huck to run like a gazelle and comb the country. Love to see him lift his sniffer into the wind ...     

Shane's Loop near the top ... good place to go right now. 

Starting at the base of Military Reserve Park, I like to start out on the Mountain Cove trail along Freestone Creek, where there's water for dogs right now. And then climb Ridge Crest to Central Ridge, take Central Ridge to Shanes/Bucktail jct., then ride Shane's clockwise back to Central Ridge jct., and then zip down Bucktail, enjoying the S-curves like a finely carved GS turn on skis. 

The whole Figure-8 route is a generally a gradual climb compared to other harder, steeper trails in the Boise Foothills. Hence, it's a good place to start working in your legs before tackling the harder stuff. 

Quoting from the R2R Facebook page, here are some other options to hike, run or ride: 

"Some of the trails that we know are good to go at this point and might also make nice little loops for folks would include: 8th St. to the access road down to the Bob's dam, up Bob's to Urban Connector, back around and down Highlands, up Bob's back to the dam and retracing your steps back up the access road and down 8th St. From the Foothills Learning Center this makes a 6.75 mile lollipop.

Also, loops or figure 8's with some combination of the Military Reserve trails and around Bucktail and Shane's Loop are opened up as well. The main Table Rock trail is also good to go at this point, although our best guess is that you will find some lingering wet spots down on the Old Pen trail."

It was cool to see a guy exercising a horse and a mule on Curlew Ridge ... he had both saddled up.

Crestline Trail, Sidewinder, Fat Tire Connector out to the wet spot, and Freestone Ridge are some other possibilities. The trails out by Surprise Valley on the old Oregon Trail should be drying out, too. Over by Seaman's Gulch, I hiked the Valley View Trail the other day and it was mostly dry, and it has fetching views of NW Boise, as always.

Here's a link to the R2R Interactive Trail map.

More than a week of sunshine, steady winds, and longer days are drying out the trails fairly quickly in the lowest part of the foothills. Farther up, it's going to be ice and snow.

Skiing/riding freshly groomed corduroy is a treat. (Courtesy Brundage Mountain)   

Speaking of which, Spring Skiing is absolutely fabulous right now at the alpine resorts. I checked in with Bogus Basin, Brundage, Tamarack and Sun Valley, and they all have online day tickets available for week days or weekends at the moment.

So even if you don't have a season pass, now is a great time to get out and ski/ride in the warm sunshine. High temperatures will be in the mid-30s to mid-40s at those resorts this weekend. Ski area snow depths and snow bases are in peak form. See my latest post on the Idaho Daily Snow.

Enjoy the weekend, and remember to set your clock to spring forward an hour on Saturday night. - SS

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Two ways to visit Perjue Canyon-Shoofly Creek in the Owyhee Canyonlands

Cool rock outcropping at the saddle on the way over to Perjue Canyon. 

Hi all, 

This spring-like weather we're enjoying this week will be temporary, but we have turned the page into March, and that means it's time to think about exploring the Owyhee Canyonlands. 

At this time of year, it's best to look at outdoor adventures in the lower elevations of the Owyhees to find trails that are drying out in the sunshine and wind, while the upper country is still wet and/or snowbound. 

One of my favorite early spring go-to hikes in the Owyhees is the Shoofly Creek area near Grand View. I had a free afternoon on Tuesday, and I thought I'd try out the BLM trail that goes over to the West Fork of Shoofly Creek aka Perjue Canyon, accessed from Mud Flat Road, aka the Owyhee Canyonlands Scenic Backcountry Byway. 

When I first put together my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook 10 years ago (can't believe it's been that long!), I pioneered a different route into Perjue Canyon called the Shoofly Quick Loop. That route covers 5.5 miles. It provides more of a loop experience with some cross-country hiking, while the BLM trail is an out-and-back experience, 2 miles each way or 4 miles total. Both of them work. Shoofly Quick Loop requires more cross-country travel, steeper climbing and descending, and backcountry navigation skills. 

The weather forecast for Grand View this weekend looks pretty promising with temperatures in the low 60s, partly cloudy skies and relatively light winds. Temps should be in the 50s next week.   

Approaching the little cabin, Perjue Canyon and W. Fork Shoofly Creek. 

How to get there
: If you're coming from Boise, take I-84 east to Simco Road. Turn right on Simco and drive across the desert toward Grand View. You'll come to a stop sign, turn right on ID 167 and go to Grand View. Pick up any last-minute supplies at the gas station at the T-junction. Go left at that junction, and then turn right at the signed turnoff for Mud Flat Road. 

It's 18 miles ahead to the primitive 2-track leading to the Shoofly Quick Loop trailhead. The BLM trailhead is straight ahead a few miles past that point. 

Stop at the Oolite Interpretive area along the way or on your way back. This is a great spot and teachable moment for kids and adults about the ancient Lake Idaho that once covered Southwest Idaho some 10 million years ago. There are some cool blond rock formations from lakeshore sands that bound together to form small caverns and caves. There's a BLM public parking area and hiking trail over to the sandstone formations. Definitely worth the stop to explore that place. 

BLM interpretive sign provides an excellent description of the Oolite formation. 

Continue south on Mud Flat Road and head for the Owyhee Front to reach the BLM trailhead for Perjue Canyon and Shoofly Creek. You'll pass by the Poison Creek picnic area. Watch for a pullout spot on the left side of the road in about a mile after the picnic area. The trailhead is not well-marked. There's a green step-over by a BLM road-closed sign for hikers. 

You'll follow a two-track trail for about two miles over to Perjue Canyon, named for a pioneer named Frank Perjue whose family lived in the Bruneau area. The tiny little cabin by the canyon was used as a cow camp. The spelling on the sign out by the BLM trail is spelled Purjue, but the book "Idaho Place Names" spells it with an "e". Oh well, this wouldn't be the first time that happened in Idaho ... 

It's a slight uphill walk for the first mile to a broad saddle, where there's a neat rock formation and a fence line for a grazing allotment to the north of the two-track. One could do a side hike to the top of the butte to the north, if desired, at this point. 

Continue on the two-track and you'll drop into Perjue Canyon. You'll see the tiny cabin and a trail fork where you could cross the creek and climb up on the "Between the Creeks" plateau that separates the two forks of Shoofly Creek. This is a cool side trip that provides a great view in the Little Jacks Wilderness. I describe a more complete trip for doing a major loop on the "Between the Creeks" plateau in my Owyhee guide, accessing that area from the Shoofly Cutoff Road. That is a full day trip by itself with an 8-mile loop on top of the plateau.   

For this trip, ignore the fork for the cross-country climb to the plateau, and walk along Perjue Canyon for a little bit, the trail crosses the creek (dog water!) and then goes downstream. There's a lot of brush in the canyon to navigate, so since it's an out-and-back hike, you can decide how far you want to go. The trail on the other side of the creek was quite muddy on Tuesday, so I turned around at that point and retraced my tracks to Mud Flat Road. 

Note that as spring progresses, there will be more wildflowers to see in this area in May and June. 

If you want to do the Shoofly Quick Loop, click on the link to see a map and photos. 

Depending on the day, you might see mule deer or antelope roaming in the Shoofly Creek area. You might even get lucky and see some California desert bighorn sheep or flush some sage grouse! I was thrilled to see a pair of mountain bluebirds paired up on my hike near the saddle area. The males have a brilliant blue color enhanced by the sunshine.

Inside Perjue Canyon

The BLM trail was a bit soft in places on Tuesday (anyplace where the trail is shaded from the sun) so I wore my Muck boots on the hike, and that was a good call. Things will dry out there as the trail gets more sun. But in the spring, it can be wet or dry, depending on how recently it has rained, so use your best judgment on that. 

Be sure to pack a lunch or snacks for your outing. It took me about 2 hours to do the 4-mile hike, out and back, while stopping for snacks and taking lots of pictures. According to my GPS, the hike featured about 528 vertical feet of climbing/descending.  

Talk about social distancing, I did not see a single person out there on the BLM trail on Tuesday, and there was one vehicle parked at the Oolite interpretive area. So mid-week is ideal to get the Private Idaho experience. 

GPS tracks from my hike over to Shoofly Creek

Pick up a copy of my Owyhee Canyonlands guide if you'd like to explore 55 hikes and bike rides in the Owyhees. The book is available on my web site, Amazon, or at Boise outdoor stores like Idaho Mountain Touring or Boise REI, or Rediscovered Books. 

I'd like to give thanks to Boise REI, the Idaho Trails Association and David Draheim, BLM outdoor recreation planner, for their work on establishing and improving the BLM trail over to Perjue Canyon.  

Have fun! 
- SS